Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Matthew Clay, 28 February 1803

From Matthew Clay

Congress Hall 28th Feby: 1803


There is now before the Senate a Bill for opening two land Offices in the Mississippi Territory which among other things impowers the President of the United States to appoint two Receivers of Public monies, one to be in the county of Adams, for this Office I beg leave to name Abner Green a person in all respects qualified to fill that place—Mr. Green is admited to be one of the best Accomptants in the Territory—he stands high in the confidence of the people of that Country—he is a man of integrity—attached to the republican party; & is an admirer of the measures of the present Administration—

Not having noticed the appointment of Secretary in that Territory since Mr. Steel’s time expired beg leave to recommend Cato West—this gentleman’s literary talents are inferior to none in that quarter, he stands high in the confidence of the Republican party—he is a man of integrity warmly attached to the Constitution & the measures of the present Administration—

I trust I shall stand excused with the President of the United States for the part which I take in the nomination of those Gentleman when he is informed that it is solicited by both the gentlemen & the Republican party of the Territory—

With sentiments of high respect I am yr Ob: Servt.

Mat. Clay

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); endorsed by TJ as received 1 Mch. and so recorded in SJL with notation “Abner Greene & Cato West to office”; also endorsed by TJ: “Green Abner to be Reciever public monies West Cato to be Secretary.”

Matthew Clay (1754–1815) of Virginia was a veteran of the American Revolution who served in the House of Representatives from 1797 to 1813. As a freshman congressman, he boarded with TJ and earned the vice president’s praise for being “firm as a rock” in his Republican loyalty (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Vol. 29:422, 469n).

The bill mentioned by Clay was passed into law by Congress on 3 Mch. 1803 as “An Act regulating the grants of land, and providing for the disposal of the lands of the United States, south of the state of Tennessee.” Among its provisions, the act authorized the president to establish two land offices in the Mississippi Territory, one in Adams County and the other in Washington County, to dispose of lands lying west and east of Pearl River, respectively. A register and receiver of public monies was to be appointed for each land office (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States…1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855-56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:229–35).

abner green was treasurer general of the Mississippi Territory and a justice of the peace for Adams County. He did not receive an appointment from TJ. His brother-in-law, cato west, was nominated secretary of the territory by TJ in his 1 Mch. 1803 message to the Senate (Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934-75, 28 vols. description ends , 5:191n, 529).

TJ had previously received recommendations for the new Mississippi offices from Kentucky representative Thomas T. Davis. Writing James Madison on 23 Feb., Davis asked the secretary “to inform the President” that Congressmen Abram Trigg of Virginia and Robert Williams of North Carolina “will be pleased to obtain the appointment of Commissioners under the Act for disposing of the Lands in Mississippi Terretory” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; addressed: “Mr Madison”; endorsed by TJ as received 23 Feb. and “Abram Trigg Robert Williams to be Western commissioners” and so recorded in SJL).

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